Researcher Spotlight: Andrea Baumann
May 11, 2021
By Guylaine Spencer
The COVID pandemic has made the shortage of nurses and their working conditions front-page news. These concerns are not new, however, for Dr. Andrea Baumann. For many years, her main focus of research has been nursing human resources and workforce planning.
One of the potential solutions to the shortage of nursing staff involves helping internationally educated nurses find work faster. “It can take these nurses six months to a year before they go through all the hoops of immigration and registration to get a job,” Baumann notes. “So we created a project where we found communities that had vacancies and we found nurses and matched them. We have matched more than 100 nurses in full-time employment in two years. It’s still ongoing.”
Another topic we’ve been hearing in pandemic news is the problem of full-time versus part-time nursing positions, mostly involving nursing home personal support workers. However, the public may not be aware that registered nurses have faced this difficulty in the past as well – and there’s a link to a previous epidemic.
“We completed a study a few years ago,” Baumann says. “We worked on an initiative for full employment of nurses. After the SARS epidemic, we realized that almost 60% of nurses working were working part-time. The government said that that was because the nurses wanted to work part-time. We did a study on preferences and it showed that 80% of nurses wanted to work full-time. We talked the government into a policy calling for 70% full-time employment. The government then developed some incentives for the employers to hire nurses. We evaluated that policy over the years, and it did work. At one point they did reach 70% full-time employment,” says Baumann.
Another aspect of that government policy was job orientation and staff retention. “Sick Children’s Hospital had been involved from the beginning. They developed a strategy to hire more full-time nurses. They hired over a seven-year period over 400 nurses under that policy initiative. Then we evaluated. We looked at recruitment, retention and the rate of full-time employment. Part of the policy was not just hiring people full-time but giving nurses a three-month orientation. We had evidence saying that orientations were not long enough and that nurses were leaving jobs soon after being hired. After the orientation program was introduced, retention improved. That was a very good finding, because it’s very costly to employers to hire someone and then have them leave.”
Baumann has written more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, including four books, and she is considered an expert in health systems, human resources and workforce integration.
She has mentored many new researchers. To those just starting out, she offers this advice. “First, you need a masters or a PhD for training in methodology, writing and publishing. Pursue higher education, and don’t wait too long. Second, the research topics you choose should be topical. You have to address areas that are of interest to policy makers and to nurses as a whole. Choose an area that you are really interested in, because you are going to spend quite a bit of time reading about it and talking about it. Your interests have to match the interests of your research team, too,” she says.
Baumann enjoys all parts of the research process – the findings, the preparation, the background information. “I really enjoy designing projects,” she says. “And I especially enjoy working with my research team. We have a strong research team and have been able to involve students in the research. The students always take a slightly different slant and it’s usually extremely informative for the research and that’s very rewarding.”